If you're like me and have friends and family in other countries, or need to work on a daily basis with people in multiple timezones around the world, then this page is for you. I have searched, and found a vast number of web sites claiming to have freeware multiple timezone aware world clock utilities, able to display multiple times and clocks simultaneously.
Unfortunately, many web sites have misleading keywords and text around the applications, apparently all they want is page hits and will shamelessly attract people with deception. A large percentage of the pages I have visited in my searches for a good utility yielded almost entirely fully commercial, or shareware applications, with a little twist designed to get page hits via keyword searches - the words "free evaluation", or "free trial" associated with non freeware applications. These are usually either cripple-ware or time limited trials. Some are shareware, and while many people have no qualms about downloading shareware (or nag-ware) and never paying for it, I prefer to use true freeware, which is the purpose of this web site, and in fact this software category.
Many of the utilities are also very limited, not delivering on what the pages promise, or being limited in the number of clocks that can be displayed simultaneously. For some people, the magic number of five simultaneous clocks offered by many programs might be enough. For anyone working for a global company, dealing with people in different time zones on a daily basis, you will probably find, like me, that five just doesn't cut it, and you need more like ten or even twenty different times available.
Go straight to the Quick Selection Guide
World Clock by Wim Heirman is my clear first choice, after trying many different programs, online web services and Firefox extensions.
This world clock has a small memory requirement at just 7Mb, is easy to use and gives me exactly what I want - a choice of virtually any number of time zones with customizable text to suit the cities or countries selected. Everything fits nicely in one small window and is quick and easy to change and view. Options are a little sparse, but that is what makes this such a simple and easy to use application.
Configuring new cities is easy using either a drop down list of names and GMT offsets, or using a little world map and clicking the location which then displays the GMT offset and time zone name. The city name can be customized to be anything you choose so that you can add smaller unlisted cities, and you can easily change the order of the cities listed by clicking up and down arrow buttons to position them any way you like.
If you're into other unusual time zones, for the internet savvy, Swatch Internet Time is supported, for the 'Trekkie's you can have Stardate Time, and if you're interested in the current Mars research programs, you can find Mars Coordinated Time also, though I suspect that while the last two might be fun, they will be have very limited usefulness to most of us.
There is even a calculation of the number of people on earth, obviously based on some pre-supposed rate of birth, and options for Julian date in both long and short formats. You can display or hide the whole list of cities, and when hovering your mouse over the system tray icon, the top few city times are displayed. NTP time server synchronization is a configurable option, for either one off or regular settings at any number of seconds, minutes, hours, days or weeks.
Qlock World Clock is a nice second choice. It looks nice aesthetically, and has configurable colors for each clock.
It appears to be unlimited in the number of clocks it can display and can display the different cities in small, medium or large "skins" in the free version (pro adds large and extra large). Time can be displayed as 12 hour, 24 hour, or 24 hour with seconds. A nice touch is the display of the Zulu / GMT time offset in each clock other than your home clock. Clocks "dock" or "snap" to each other so for engineers or straight line freaks like me, you can make everything line up nicely and look tidy.
The clocks are on the desktop, with no automatic always on top setting, but there is an always on top setting available. With transparency setting available only in the paid versions, if you have more than a few clocks, always on top might be rather limited in usefulness.
The pro version adds some features - the ability to attach a note, to see what the time will be in other locations by setting a base time for a selected location, set up foreign currency conversion feeds, set repeatable alarms for different times in each of the cities, set the level of transparency of each of the clocks individually, and toggle the display of the city name on and off, but I'm not sure what practical use this last feature really has. Overall, I really like Qlock, it is quick to load, easy to use, and looks good. But I don't think it will replace my first choice Wim's Word Clock any time soon.
NTP Time Zone Clock is a good option for those of us with many applications running simultaneously in a serious work environment, using just 4.5Mb of memory. It is basically a no nonsense, no frills clock with all configured times displayed in a single, simple window which can be loaded up very quickly, minimized or even maximized to fill the whole screen (not that this has much practical use unless you want to stand a long way from your computer and watch the time pass, almost like watching the paint dry!).
It has options to be always on top, transparent, and to show or turn of the window's title bar. The time for each configured city is displayed in the task bar icon, alternating through all times so that even when the window is minimized you can see the time for each city of interest by watching for a few seconds. Unfortunately the transparent mode is not very useful as it is not true transparent mode, but simply makes the background color transparent leaving the window itself looking rather ugly.
All city times have the same font color which can be changed, and the background color can also be changed. The window can be resized and the font used can be customized, but the size seems to be ignored, and automatically modified as needed to make the times fit within the window. City order can be changed using Up and Down buttons while adding or editing the clocks, and new city times are easily added using either a location (country or city) which then automatically sets the time zone, or by using a time zone in terms of hoursoffset from Zulu / GMT with some hints as to the counties and cities in those time zones. The displayed name can be changed to anything you want it to be, if the city you want is not listed. A facility is provided for NTP time server configuration.
Microsoft Time Zones is an option that might be more acceptable in most office environments where third party software is less tolerated on company computers, and freeware use is monitored or restricted by corporate desktop support standards and policies. It works well enough and is very simple to use, however what makes it not very useful to me is that it has a limit of only five time zones, and that all you see is a little icon in the system tray, which pops up a balloon showing your five time zones when you click the system tray icon.
A limited number of standard cities are available to choose from, but additional cities can be configured using the drop down list of Zulu / GMT offsets with some “clue cities” to help you choose the appropriate offset, at which you can customize the city name to suit your particular location.
There is also a “Find times in …” option which allows you to set your default location then choose up to four additional locations from drop down lists and have their times displayed. This is not much different than having the five clock limit, but the usefulness is diminished by the fact that every time you use it, all previous locations are cleared and you start over. Other than these features and limitations, it does what it is supposed to, but has nothing outstanding to recommend it.
Sun Clock is one of those applications you find every now and then, where you look, and say, "Wow! that's cool." Sun Clock is one of those, it is cool to look at with it's graphical map of the earth, complete with the day / night view, the position of the sun and moon, and even optional simulated lights in the night zones. While this is a cool program to look at, its usefulness is severely hampered by the fact that it is somewhat slow to load, and runs full screen. This means you look at the display, see all the countries and cities of interest to you, then you press Esc., and the program shuts down. You can't minimize it, and you can't display times in a simple window to refer quickly to any time you need to check something. Trying to switch tasks with Alt Tab also closes the program down.
To configure Sun Clock, you right click the mouse, and after a few seconds, a window pops open. Configuration is easy, and it is interesting to be able to display a clock graphically in the exact location of the map, but for any cities not yet listed in the default settings, you have to know the latitude and longitude to configure them in. This is not generally hard to find, using tools like timeanddate.com, or Google, but you still need to find the settings yourself, though with every country from the looks of it, and literally hundreds of cities, chances are good you may not need to add many yourself. At almost 40Mb of memory with two processes running, this program is a little greedy, but considering what it does, that's not really too bad.
For those who feel that Americans always think the USA is the center of the world because American maps are so often printed with the US in the center, relax. You can configure Sun Clock so that any offset in degrees from Greenwich is the center of your map, so you can make your home location the center of the world! This is really easy to do, by either entering the longitudinal offset (e.g. I am at about -84 degrees), dragging a little slider which moves a tiny world map, or by selecting your home city as the current location.
Don't be misled by the configuration window displaying an option to enter a license key to register. This application has free, personal (also known as single user), and corporate versions. The single user and corporate versions have a few more features which are of course only available when the software is purchased. The download has a 30 day timer, after which three licensed single user features (sky view of stars and planets, RSS news feed and wall clock mode) stop working, while all other free features are still fully functional.
Instant Time Zone is an interesting application, however it frustrated me because of it's behavior.
I like a program that loads up as a single process, not a separate process for every clock displayed, and I like a single window with all my clocks together in one location. Instant Time Zone has the ability to show all clocks (up to a maximum of nine, which just is not enough for me) in a single window, but then it also needs a separated icon in the system tray for every clock it runs. Each system tray clock can be a different color, which is it's only redeeming factor, but only the hour digits are displayed. When you hover your mouse, a popup shows you the time for the city you are hovering over.
More annoying is that the clocks don't seem to be guaranteed to load in any particular sequence, so that when the clocks load, you never know if your home city will be shown first, last, or somewhere in between.
There are many online time services and you may find an online clock is all you need and has the added advantage you don't have to install yet another new application on your computer.
Of the many sites available the most versatile I have found is the TimeAndDate.com, which allows you to see the time and date of virtually any city in every country. If you want to customize it and create your own settings for a custom clock with all the time zones you care about, you can create a free account to store your settings so that your custom clock display is always displayed just the way you want it. So far I have not seen any spam associated with the email address I used to register on the web site, so I believe I can recommend it with no hesitation.
The real benefit of a web based service like this over browser based addons or widgets, is that it is truly portable, in that it is available no matter whether you use your own computer or another, and no matter what web browser is available to you.
Browser based addons are another option, and since I am a Firefoxuser, this is what I am most familiar with and have spent the most time researching and testing. In all my searching only one really good option exists, however others may exist and you may find something else that suits you well too. FoxClocks is a very versatile and fully featured multi timezone clock add in, which works just the same way in both Firefox and Thunderbird. It is very configurable, allowing just about any number of clocks and can be configured to display in the status bar (left or right) or in a toolbar.
A really nice feature is the ability to display a little flag icon next to the time for a quick and easy visual identification, and also the ability to change the color of the text used to display the clock depending on the time. I use this to have my primary remote timezone display green during waking hours, and red during the night. Another nice feature is the ability to pick a few clocks to display in the status bar (or toolbar), and have all your configured clocks display when you hover your mouse over the FoxClocks in your status bar. The timezone database is kept up to date, an important feature when countries change their daylight savings time rules.
You may well ask about addons for Internet Explorer, and I don't suggest you hold your breath waiting for me to suggest any! Since I believe in free software, and yes, you could argue that Internet Explorer is free (but you do pay the price, really you do), and I don't use Internet Explorer unless I absolutely have to, and I won't install any addons since I consider IE and them to be a security risk I choose not to accept. I would however suggest visiting the Best Free Add-ins for Internet Explorer review right on this web site for some possible options.
The first, World Clock by Raphael Spayer is the most flexible and is my top Google gadget choice. It allows adding an almost unlimited number of clocks, and while not all are immediately visible after adding, simply minimizing and then maximizing the gadget on your iGoogle page will resize the gadget and stretch it to display all configured clocks.
The second World Clock gadget by aoe allows only 8 clocks, but can customize the text displayed for the time zone, as well as changing the font size and display format (12 or 24 hour time) and allows setting whether or not to display the day. Unfortunately, this one also comes with a little advertising link, but at least it is a clickable link and does not actually display the advert.
A third World Clock by Mark Barrett really doesn't make it for me, but may appeal to people who like the traditional old analog style clock face. Unfortunately it only allows two analog clocks, and is a little buggy in that the display cuts off text below the clocks indicating the timezone the clock is for.
You might want to check out these articles too:
Wim's World Clock
Qlock World Clock
NTP Time Zone Clock
Microsoft Time Zones
Instant Time Zone
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